Checking In: Florida isn't alone in trying to curb LGBTQ, race, and sex ed material in school. Georgia has a similar proposal
A Florida effort to allow parents more say in what materials are used in classrooms and school libraries has a parallel companion in Georgia. The two Republican-led states are sharing more than just a common border. WFSU News Director Lynn Hatter spoke with WABE reporter Christopher Alston about Georgia’s version of a plan opponents are calling a “book ban.”
Hatter: You all have a proposal in Georgia that would give parents a lot more say to quash books and other kinds of materials they might find offensive and age-inappropriate. Can you talk a little bit about the Georgia proposal and what exactly it does?
Alston: That's right. When the current proposal being considered by the Georgia General Assembly is Senate bill. And it was introduced last year, actually in the first half of the session, and made it through the Senate, but it's stalled in the house. And the bill would essentially give parents more control over what their children are exposed to in schools. Parents are able to go to the school with materials that they consider obscene. And the school's principal would have to make a decision within seven days and let the parent know, within 10 days, then the parent would have the ability to appeal that to the school board if they disagree.
Hatter: Now, you guys said in Georgia your effort around the start at last year, was there a genesis for it? Was there something that sort of sparked this effort? Or is this part of a pattern that you all have been seeing for a while?
Alston: It's definitely been a part of a pattern. Several opponents and Democratic lawmakers have noted the parallels with Critical Race Theory* and general effort to try and exert more control over local school boards and use school board as a forum for debating some of these cultural issues. And it seems to follow along those lines.
Hatter: Are there any particular groups that have been the usual voices for this bill, people that you guys have been seeing a lot or hearing a lot from?
Alston: Yes, the strongest proponents for this bill have been religious organizations like the Faith and Family Coalition here, as well as Republican lawmakers who support it. And just other generally conservative-leaning activist groups.
Hatter: What are some of the arguments then from the other side against this bill?
Alston: Well, critics of the bill warn that introducing this measure could lead to schools just kind of taking the path of least resistance. And if they're being bombarded by requests for a book or some other material to be banned, they might just [approve] that request, rather than you don't have to deal with the onslaught.
Hatter: How likely is this proposal to pass in Georgia? You've noted that last year, it cleared one chamber, but it couldn't get through another? Is there more momentum behind it this year?
Alston: There does seem to be more momentum this year. It's garnered support from Governor Brian Kemp, for example, who has said he might have it included in a parent's bill of rights that he's planning to introduce. And it's also received support from other top Republican leadership in the state legislature.
Hatter: There are similar bills in more than 15 other states as well. This is not one or two states as outliers here.
Alston: Well, I do think these issues will become something of an example of the broader issues we're debating. It'll be it'll get played out in the school board, where parents are able to argue with each other face to face over what they think is best taught in schools.